Every year nearly 4,000 Americans die in fires and another 25,000 are injured. Let’s not forget the huge cost of fires— an estimated $8.6 billion every year— in property loss. And the sad truth is that most of these deaths, injuries, and costs are entirely preventable if people follow a few simple safety tips.
1. Fire evacuation plans: Every family member should know how to get out of the home safely and where to meet outside in the event of a fire. You should practice your evacuation plan every six months.
2. Check for potential culprits: Fires are often caused by human carelessness. Make sure you are doing the following to protect your home:
• Regularly inspect for frayed or overloaded electrical outlets.
• Only use the correct wattage light bulbs in fixtures.
• Make sure electrical appliances that emit heat likes lamps don’t touch anything flammable like bedding or drapes.
3. Fireplaces. If your home has fireplaces, make sure they are kept clean and in proper working order. Fires must always be attended while burning and should be covered with a strong screen to avoid sparks coming out. Children must always be supervised around lit fireplaces and chimneys need to be repaired and cleaned on a regular basis.
4. Matches and lighters: Parents must properly teach children that lighters and matches are never to be played with. Be honest with them about the dangers and tell them they are to inform you immediately if they find matches or a lighter.
5. Cigarettes: Did you know that fires caused by cigarettes kill over 1,000 people in the U.S. and Canada every year? Cigarettes can cause fires when ashes and butts come into contact with flammable materials like bedding, furniture, and carpet. If you smoke, don’t smoke in bed. Make sure ashes and butts are completely out before disposing of them in the trash.
6. Candles: Scented candles have become popular. However, they are also a fire hazard. Follow these tips to use candles safely:
• Never leave burning candles unattended. Extinguish them when you go to bed.
• Keep them away from pets, kids, curtains, and bedding.
• Use good candle holders and put them on a non-flammable surface like a granite counter top.
• Don’t let older kids play with candles in unattended rooms.
7. Smoke Alarms: Most fatal fires occur in homes without fires alarms, almost 60 percent. If you’re building a new house, consider getting a sprinkler system installed as well as fire alarms and don’t forget about carbon monoxide alarms too. When possible, use a 10 year lithium battery and check them once every two months.
8. Fire Extinguishers: Don’t have one? Get one. Keep it somewhere where people can get to it easily, like the kitchen. Make sure adults and older kids understand how to use it. It can mean the difference between a small grease fire and your entire home going up in flames.
9. Holiday Decorations: We all love Christmas decorations. However, they cause fires every year. Make sure to unplug decorations when going to bed or leaving your home. Also, ensure they work properly. And if you have a live Christmas tree, be sure to adequately water it.
10. Portable Heaters: In the winter, portable heaters help to keep you warm, but they are also a huge fire hazard. Ensure heaters are at least three feet away from anything flammable like drapes, blankets, paper, or clothing. Place heating units on a hard, clean, level surface. If a heating unit isn’t in good working order, replace it.